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OSU, Wildcats ready for 75th match-up

October 4, 2013
By BETTY POKAS - Buckeye Blitz , Times Leader

REGARDING age, Benjamin Franklin once noted: "Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75."

That, however, isn't true when 75 refers to football - the 75th match-up Saturday between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats proves both teams continue to be alive and kicking (especially kicking).

A win for the Wildcats would be especially gratifying to them as Ohio State and Penn State teams are the only Big 10 teams that Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald has yet to beat during his head coaching career.

Ohio State, of course, is aiming for a victory with hopes of continuing the nation's longest winning streak at 17 games.

Northwestern not only would like to end that winning streak, but it is attemptiong to end OSU's four-game winning streak in the series.

There also are other streaks. The Wildcats enter Saturday's game, having scored at least 30 points in six straight games going back to last season, the longest such streak in school history and tied for the third-longest active streak in the nation.

Both teams are undefeated, and Saturday's game will be the Wildcats' first in the Big Ten Conference this year. They already have defeated California, 44-30; Syracuse, 48-27; Western Michigan, 38-17 and Maine, 35-21.

Northwestern's last game was Sept. 21, and the team has had two weeks to prepare for Ohio State. OSU head football coach Urban Meyer pointed out the importance of bye weeks.

"Some people say bye weeks don't matter; you'll never hear me say that," said Meyer. "Bye weeks are very important." He pointed out some things he's consider if he had been scheduling a bye week, such as injury, fatigue and back-to-back opponents.

Noting it was the Wildcats' first opportunity to play in the Big Ten this year, Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald emphasized its importance, adding, "That's why our guys come here. ... Our guys are excited for that challenge, to play in this conference."

Wildcat middle linebacker Damien Proby concurred when he said, "We didn't come here to be a Division I program in the Big Ten to fear any opponent we're going to go against. We're excited for the opportunity to play a very-well coached, disciplined team. That's as good as it's going to get."

And Meyer recalls details of a 2001 win of 43-42 by Bowling Green State University when he was head coach there, and the opponent was Northwestern.

"Coaches are weird ducks, man. I could tell you I don't know my address, but I can tell you every play in that game, yeah, absolutely." he said. "Twenty-nine yards in the fourth quarter against my friends, a great football coach, Randy Walker. We made the decision in the fourth quarter not to kick deep because we couldn't stop them.

"Zak Kustok was the quarterback, and they beat the team up north like two weeks earlier. I think they were ranked at the time ....

"Oh, we had a six-hour bus ride, and we refused to leave the locker room for about two-and-a-half hours. Those kids wouldn't leave, and I wouldn't leave without them. We were just crying and enjoying it. It was an incredible comeback by a team, we scored the last two touchdowns, I mean, with a minute-and-a-half."

Meyer also mentioned how pleased he was about quarterback Braxton Miller's comeback last week against Wisconsin after not playing since Sept. 7 because he was injured.

"I thought his preparation for the game was one of the best he's had. His practice was one of the best he's had as far as Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, and I thought his accuracy on the deep ball was outstanding," the coach said.

Miller, a Heisman Trophy hopeful, broke a record last week that was set years before he was born in 1992. He became the Buckeyes' all-time leader among quarterbacks with 89 rushing yards against Wisconsin, and this elevated him over Cornelious Green's 38-year school record of 2,080 yards between 1971-75. Miller's 2,151 rushing yards is sixth all-time in Big Ten history among quarterbacks.

The Wildcats' offense ranks 18th in the NCAA with 249.5 rushing yards per game and features a two-quarterback system in senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian.

Gahanna native Chi Chi Ariguzo, a junior linebacker, leads Northwestern's defense with 35 tackles on the season.

Wildcats' junior safety Ibraheim Campbell ranks fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten with three interceptions this season. As a team, Northwestern ranks third in the NCAA with 10 total interceptions, four of which were returned for touchdowns.

Northwestern ranks 15th in this weeek's USA Today/Coaches Top 25 poll and 16th in The Associated Press poll. OSU is third and fourth in the two polls for the fourth straight week.


I CAN sympathize somewhat with the reporter who was covering Fitzgerald's press conference and used his iPhone to record the coach's remarks. The phone rang, and Fitzgerald answered it, spoke briefly and ended with the words, "Go 'Cats."

Former OSU coach Jim Tressel never answered a borrowed cell phone I was using, but it rang with a call from my son, John, just as Tressel's press conference began a few years ago. I was sitting on the front row, and Tressel looked over and said, "Everything OK at home?" (It wasn't all my fault; I had received some instructions on the way to Columbus on how the phone worked, but I didn't know how to turn it off.)

SATURDAY'S game, which will be aired on ABC, will begin at 8 p.m. at Ryan Field, Evanston.



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